I whined and made a face; Tom looked at me from his perch in the corner and raised an eyebrow.
“Do you have to?” I really sounded childish. I had lost all pride and did not care.
The nurse had returned to prick my finger and check my blood sugar. I was in the surgical short stay unit to have my kidney stent replaced, and a finger prick was what I was complaining about. It hurts! And I don’t have sugar issues. I have post-cancer issues.
“Well, I tried to see if we could not do this Mrs. O’Connor, but they are saying I must prick your finger.” She smiled sympathetically and commenced swabbing my finger with alcohol. When I looked at Tom and laughed at something he said she did a swift, painful jab. The strip soaked up a bead of my blood and the nurse watched the machine.
“Your number is an 80. Perfect!” Yes, like I said…
Tom was taunting me with a little grin and mocking my angst. It is how we do this thing together; he laughs at my whining. I interpret the laugh as a solid care and concern and a fierce watching over me in a situation that can run beyond our control in a heartbeat. Our routine gives me just enough mental room to make my fears about the day’s procedures known without being consumed by them.
Another nurse came in and I recognized her from a year ago. She was the first nurse who actually injected Novocaine and then inserted the IV. Imagine, making a painful procedure easier on patients! She was my hero. She efficiently tied a tourniquet on my arm and my trusty vein popped out to say hello.
Sunshine illuminated gaps in the window blinds. Somewhere beyond the window a person without a care in the world was ordering a cup of coffee. I’d like a kidney stent with that espresso, please.
“Here’s the Novacaine.” No pain; oh God thank you.
“Good. Now here’s the needle.” Oh please, oh please…
The needle resided snugly in the back of my right hand and was covered by tape. No trauma. Nurse G. was, again, my hero. Her visit was followed by the anesthesiologist and I asked for my usual. That would be the little round patch behind my ear to make sure I don’t have nausea from the medicine. Then the doctor came in.
“We’re going to give you a little something to relax you before you head into the O.R.,” he said as he marked my side with his initials, “And then we’ll see if we’re able to leave the stent out today, or not.”
The room began to swim and then I was waking up in another short stay room. Tom sat in the corner saying words and they sounded like a biopsy had been taken; the doctor had seen something unexpected. A stent replacement had been done successfully to keep my left kidney working properly. I dozed off. Was in a wheelchair. Stepping out of the wheelchair into the car. Climbing steps at home into bed to sleep off the anesthesia. Me and my stent and my scar tissue or whatever had shown up on the screen in my bladder.
Three days later we sat in the doctor’s office for results. I was watching sunshine through window slats again. A 50/50 silence covered the room. Fifty percent chance of benign scar tissue conditions. Fifty percent chance of malignant cancer seeping into another part of my body like a bad leak. Had radiation caused this? They call it the gift that keeps on giving. God, I’ve done all I know to do; this is up to You. Scar tissue would be a welcome diagnosis. Why was I stuck on these thoughts. He was faithful. Always. Even if it was not what I hoped. Please. Please? Please. Tom shifted his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. A knock on the door. We both said, “Come in,” like we were expecting dinner guests. Yes, please come in and tell us the news.
“No cancer; the biopsy was benign.” The culprit was the stent, and it was causing some scar tissue in my bladder. The price of having a wounded working kidney. Breathe.
“I had trouble getting the scope inside the ureter on the left side; as you know, we’re dealing with scar tissue from your past surgeries as well as the radiation. In addition to the scar tissue biopsy, I thought I saw something new pushing into the ureter higher up towards your kidney.” Air left the room. “But I was finally able to look and am confident we’re simply dealing with the same condition as before. Your ureters have been pulled in, or pushed in, from the scarring after the multiple surgeries and treatment. They’re innocent victims in the cancer battle and we’ll need to keep using the stents on the left side for now. I’ll see you in six months to change it again.”
We left the doctor’s office with many reasons to be crazily happy.
So why did I feel like I had woken up in Elijah’s cave?
Elijah ran for his life. This was right after God gave him multiple wins over wicked enemies trying to kill him. After one little nasty verbal threat from evil Queen Jezebel, Elijah’s courage fled and took him too. I always read that story and wondered what his problem was. If God was for him, how could he curl up and want to die? What was there to be afraid of? He’d WON. What a whiner. Turns out he and I have some things in common.
After our good news I struggled for a few days. I looked past the good (no, GREAT) outcome and focused on the What If’s hiding in the shadows of the conversation. What if I have problems not from cancer, but from stents? Will my bladder hold up if I have to keep getting stents replaced? What if some day I have to sit and hear that cancer has returned?
Wake up. Drink. Rest. I heard the echo of heavenly encouragement in the quiet flames of a fire Tom built for me in our fireplace; in the music played in the church sanctuary Sunday morning to worship the Giver of Life; in the cheerful lights of the Christmas tree our daughters and son-in-law helped decorate; in kind congratulations on our good news from friends.
Bruises. That’s all. They’re real; but they fade. Life has to be lived. Don’t stay in the cave.
Here is one of the songs from our worship set Sunday that I struggled to sing. Got a little emotional. The words are real, and so is the One they are about. Click here to listen to “Made Me Glad”.
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. – Psalm 95:1&2